The subject of Grace needs not to be turbulent, but when folks hold on to outdated religious views they will resist anything that challenges those views.
The New Testament is full of accounts of that conflict, as is the history of the Christian church. It seems that there is a strong reluctance to let go of the Old Covenant and in particular a reluctance to let go of the governance of Law (Mosaism) in favor of faith in Jesus, and faith in the Holy Spirit’s ability to enable and sustain righteousness. The “turbulence” comes from those who think that Christians still need to adhere to Old Covenant Law and that Grace still needs to be balanced by Law-keeping.
The Righteous will live by Faith
Paul is clear, “the righteous will live by faith.” (Rom 1:17) And it is “by faith from first to last”. It is this righteousness by faith only, without Law, that sticks in the craw of most folk, particularly if they believe that adherence to the Law (usually the Ten Commandments) is required to assure our salvation. As Dr. Michael Eaton succinctly stated, “Any moral code that is based on the Ten Commandments is legalistic.” Food for thought indeed.
Grace is the only effective means of Righteousness
It’s true! God requires a higher standard than required by Law. It’s not too hard to obey the Ten Commandments completely. The problem is that God requires more than that which is demanded by Law. The Law turns out to be a lesser standard. We are to love, not just refrain from murdering people. There is no love demanded by the Ten Commandments. However, love, along with many other God gifted attitudes and behaviors come with the Holy Spirit living within us. These fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5) well and truly supersede the demand of the Law thereby fulfilling all that the Law requires. It’s a higher standard of righteousness enables only by God’s presence, Grace.
A chief problem with Law is that when it is added to the mix about how we are made righteous causes us to “fall from Grace” and it also “alienates us from Jesus” (Gal 3). Serious consequences indeed.
We cannot make unbelief balance faith.
Paul makes the following statements…
“The Law is not based on faith.” – Galatians 3:12
“…everything that does not come from faith is sin.” – Romans 14:23
The author of Hebrews makes this powerful comment,
“…without faith it is impossible to please God…” – Hebrews 11:6
- Could it be that the demand to add Law to Christian’s experience actually causes us to lose our empowerment in the Spirit?
- Could it be that Law really does distance us from a relationship with Jesus?
- Could it be that recourse to Law is really an act of unbelief neutralizing the very righteousness we would like to achieve?
- Could it be that trying to balance Grace with Law demolishes Grace?
- Could it be that Law really does prevent us from seeing and reflecting Jesus (2 Cor 3)?
- Could it be that going after Law neutralizes our ability to be supernatural (eg. heal the sick)?
I believe so, hence the urgency that surrounds the need to preach the Gospel of Grace once again. Jesus does have the authority and power to be the “Author and Finisher of our Faith”.
It is a fresh revelation and a new “administration”, or government, of Grace.
“Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. -The Apostle Paul – Ephesians 3:2-12
Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot comprehend Grace
- Our definition of Grace needs to be updated in light of the coming of Jesus, His death and resurrection, and in light of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Grace is no longer just ‘unmerited favor’, which is the grace found in the Old Covenant.
- Grace is now the ’empowering presence of God’ resident in us through the indwelling Spirit. The same Grace that was in Jesus is the Grace that is in and available to us. New Covenant Grace is entirely different in its scope and power than that found in the Old Covenant.
We need to understand the radical nature of the New Covenant.
- The Law (Torah/Mosaism) is no longer in charge of believers and cannot be used to effect righteousness.
- According to 2 Cor 3, “whenever Moses is read” a veil covers hearts and minds are made dull. Therefore the Law cannot balance Grace, it shuts down the glory of Jesus.
- We are governed and empowered solely by the Holy Spirit.
- Using Law to ‘balance grace’ is an appalling return to unbelief.
- We stand and stand alone in faith on the complete and comprehensive ability of the Holy Spirit to rule us and empower righteous living and gifted ministry.
- Does this mean that we are free to sin? Of course not! Why would we think that a life governed and empowered by the Holy Spirit would be less righteous than that which the Law demands?
- In light of the “uselessness” of Law to effect righteousness why depend on its powerlessness and very limited definition of sin.
- The Holy Spirit is vastly able and comprehensive in His scope to both justify us and sanctify us through faith in Jesus.
Unless we understand Grace we cannot effectively extend the Kingdom.
- His Kingdom is the Kingdom of Grace ruled over by the Spirit of Grace.
- Grace (as it is in Jesus) is powerful and effective. It is the reason that we are made righteous through faith in Jesus. His power and His righteousness become ours.
- Other than the story of Jesus Himself, the message of Grace or the Gospel of Grace is the most significant message in the New Testament.
- That all could be saved and made righteous by believing in Jesus alone is most confounding. It certainly puts a merciful, gracious and very kind God on very remarkable display.